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A Celebration Of The Life Of Colin Weightman
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Colin Weightman

Celebrating our Honorary President, bee keeper of renown and friend to many

Welcome to a special edition of the Honey Press which contains contributions remembering the life of Colin Weightman both from members of Hexham Beekeepers and leading regional and national figures who wrote their articles for other publications. Thank you for giving us permission to reproduce those articles.

I first met Colin in 1976 when I joined Hexham Beekeepers having been taken to my first meeting by the late Kevin Rowntree who kept bees for many years in Broomhaugh. Like many other local beekeepers, Colin was a generous mentor to me and as the articles testify, my experience was not unique.

Philip Latham

Colin (right) with Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey
Amy Nicholson & John Theobalds HBKA exhibit 1st Prize Gateshead Garden Festival 1990

Colin Weightman MBE -
"The Last Of The Giants Of Bee Keeping"

 

Colin had been associated with beekeeping from a very early age; his interest in practical beekeeping came about through his grandmother, who farmed near to his home at nearby Durham City. Colin was born 7th August 1929; he was the only child of Harry and Winifred Weightman. The encroachment of industry around the Durham farm holding gave the Weightmans the incentive to move in 1938 back to Northumberland, taking a farming tenancy within the Tyne valley of the Allendale Estates, Old Shilford, Stocksfield. Colin’s beekeeping began in 1941 through the meeting of his mentor Jack Tweddell, the Post Master of nearby Riding Mill who arranged for him to purchase his first stock of bees from an elderly lady for the princely sum of 30 shillings (£1.50p). At the time, Wartime Britain saw a phenomenal rise in the number of beekeepers’ taking up the craft as a means to obtain sugar for feeding bees. It did not go unnoticed that once hostilities ceased, so did a great number of beekeepers too.

It was in the war years that Colin was to meet the late Hodgson Gray, a prolific writer for the British Bee Journal from the early 1920’s. This introduction was to lead to a friendship that lasted until Hodgson Gray’s death. During the dreary period of war time, Hodgson Gray was living in the high moorlands of Rothbury; which gave Colin the knowledge of becoming a great heather beekeeper for the years ahead.

In the late 1940’s Colin met at his Shilford Home two of the great bee men of the 20th century, Brother Adam and William Herrod-Hempsall. For many years a photograph of these visits, held pride of place on Colin’s side board. By the mid 1950’s, Colin was both beekeeper and farmer diverting his immense energies to both making a living from his father’s farm and expanding his interest in beekeeping to much wider fields. He worked tirelessly with local beekeepers especially the famed honey exhibiting showmen Alf Dodd, Frank Cessford and Bob Robson.

In 1948 Colin visited Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey beginning a friendship that was to continue until the death of Brother Adam in 1996. From then on Colin made many visits to the Abbey, undertaking a number of overseas tours by accompanying the great man in his mission to find the best strains of bees. In 1952, it was at Buckfast where Colin was to meet Dr Colin G. Butler the famous entomologist of bee behaviour and pheromones. This meeting led on to Colin being appointed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries – Beekeeping Group in 1954, a place on this group he held until it was disbanded in 1969. This group was made up of the majority of County Beekeeping Instructors (CBI’s) from throughout England and Wales,including William Hamilton, W J Carey, T W Wilbraham, H Teal, A G Harrison, F A Richards, J L Sergeant and C A Harwood with P S Milne, Colin G. Butler, E R Poole and G A Ingold from National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAAS).

Prior to this Colin was selected to be one of the principal speakers at the 1953 BBKA Coronation Week-End Conference held at New Earswick, York, he was in company with many of the national names of beekeeping. By now Colin was much sought after, for lecturing throughout the UK and was regular speaker at the Cumberland and Westmorland Farm School, Newton Rigg from 1954 until the conferences on beekeeping ceased in the late 1960’s.

Despite Colin’s natural interest in beekeeping, his talents extended to cattle breeding especially to the British Friesian and Dairy Shorthorns. It was through a visit to the 1954 London National Dairy Show, coincidentally it staged a one and only session of the National Honey Show at the Agricultural Hall, Olympia, it was here that I first met Colin as a 10 year old, almost sixty years ago.

As a young boy the prospect of leaving my rural roots to go on a day trip to London was a real treat. My farming uncles were regular buyers of Shorthorn cattle from the Carlisle Mart, at these gatherings these cattle specialists met up to do a bit of “fratting”. My uncles were of the opinion that you should always buy cattle from a northern area as these beasts would be naturally hardy stock. Colin’s forebear; Albert Weightman is credited with pioneering the breed of the British Friesian at the turn of 20th century. His work was rewarded with his becoming Breed Society President, the first for a North Countryman.

Colin was much in demand to judge cattle too, and over many years was invited to judge cattle at the large shows of the Royal Highland, the Royal, the Royal Welsh and the Great Yorkshire to name but a few. His popularity as a shrewd judge of cattle saw him invited time and time again.

Colin, by now was a frequent visitor to Buckfast Abbey, was encouraged to assist Brother Adam at the apiary grafting house; the workings of the abbey had such an influence on Colin that he had his own grafting house built in his apiary garden adjoining the Shilford farmhouse. The friendship and congeniality between Colin and the Abbot Father Leo Smith continued until Father Dom Leo died in 1998.

By the early 1950’s Colin had progressed to become a member of the British Beekeepers’ Examinations Board alongside J. Harold Armitt and Harry Allen. Colin’s rise in beekeeping was meteoric; he was becoming a national figure, and was now writing regular articles for the British Bee Journal. He did three spells writing the column “In the North” firstly taking over from George Green MBE (Green Eye) following his untimely death in 1955. Colin continued this column until 1961 when the late Albert L. Hind from Washington, Co. Durham took up the reins and lastly until the BBJ ceased publication in 1998.

Colin who had become an expert in heather honey production was a much sought after honey judge and was persuaded by the late Will Slinger to take the BBKA Honey Judges Certificate, more especially as Father Dockery, The Royal Show’s Senior Honey Steward had taken the examination in 1956 and had been successful. Colin went on to become a successful BBKA judge in 1961, judging at the National Honey Show in the early 1962.

During the early 1960’s it became apparent to Colin that his father was ailing, and that he too must consider his future. It was thought that he might marry a local girl, but despite a close family friendship with Alice Hunter this came to nought. As the farm was tenanted to the Allendale Estate; it fell to him to concentrate on taking the farm forward. Colin was devoted to his mother, so much so that he did not welcome separation when it was considered he should be sent to boarding school at Harrogate. Colin’s relationship with his father was anything but easy.

The death of his mother had a profound effect upon him, so much so that he almost gave up farming, more especially when British Gas drove a large pipeline across his best farm land; the upheaval and disruption almost tipped him over the edge. Fortunately he quickly realised that he had many friends, and, that he had a much trusted workforce that permitted him time to spend time of solace at Buckfast Abbey with Brother Adam.

Looking back, it was sometime earlier that I visited the Abbey with Colin to see Brother Adam trialling some recently sought bees as the best comb producing strains, that originated from Le Gatinais bees from Greneville-en-Beance (formerly Grigneville), Loiret and the Faronville districts of France. These bees were of varying and uncertain temperament, though highly thought of amongst the comb producers of the inter-war years of which the late J M Ellis of Gretna Green boasted of two stocks of this strain of bee that produced 240 heather sections. Upon our arrival at the apiary we found that Brother Adam had been forced to make a hasty retreat from these black bees. They were unmerciful in temper; so much so when they set about him; to overcome the onslaught, he had jumped into the Buckfast Abbey mill stream.  We found him more than half submerged to avoid these bees ire. Alas the great man was to persevere with them for a number of years before giving themup.

A highlight of Colin’s beekeeping career came when he was asked to accompany Brother Adam on several of his excursions in search of the best strains of bees. These excursions visited many places in Europe, the Near East and North Africa. The most memorable was the journeys to Turkey and Greece which involved much trekking in mountainous regions to see bees in their natural environment.

The first of these ventures was in 1961 that saw them visiting Mount Athos peninsula as Brother Adam had visited beekeepers in the late 1950’s who had a particular bee (Cecropia / Carniolan type) bee that was of interest to him: their traits of gentleness, their fecundity, disease resistance, their foraging and industry and non-swarming abilities all attracted him for breeding into his bees at Buckfast. He had been previously to the Anatolian districts of Turkey to find that these bees were the exact opposite of the Cecropia bees of Greece; he made the comment to me on many occasions that their nature (that it would be politically incorrect for me to say) was against them.

In the early 1970’s Colin accompanied Brother Adam with the BBC Commentator Julian Pettifer and soon a further visit to the bees of Anatolia and Mount Athos that was to lead on to further visits in 1986 that was recorded in the film the “The Monk and the Honeybee” they visited many areas of Europe including Bavaria, Greece and Turkey. This trip inspired them both to make one last visit together seek out the elusive black bee at Kilimanjaro, known to be found on the slopes of the Tanzania National Park side of the mountain. This venture was quite a feat for Brother Adam who now was a respectful 89. Colin was to relate to me sometime later that the venture had been in most respects for him quite an ordeal, that ought not to have been undertaken.

Another great highlight for Yorkshire Beekeepers was their 1982 Centenary Conference at the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, Leeds University, when Brother Adam attended and mingled amongst the 700+ attendees with Colin reading a specially prepared lecture written by Brother Adam on the search for the best in bees.

In 1990 Colin suffered an injury whilst dealing with a truculent beef steer that eventually forced him into retirement and subsequently the Allendale Estate moved Colin into the Shilford Farm Cottage where he was to remain until his death. The effects of this injury found that Colin had indeed at some time suffered a heart condition and that he needed to take things easier. Having settled into retirement he spent many hours escorting Mrs Bridget Scott around bee conferences: Bridget was a great companion whose generosity in both kindness and fellowship knew no bounds. She arranged for Brother Adam to be brought from Newton Abbott to Durham by requesting that the railway operator ensure that he was well looked after on the 7hour journey. The great man was looked after by Bridget at her home in Satley, near Tow Law, despite the loving care and attention given by Bridget, the constant toing and froing of visitors became too much for him. Subsequently he became ill and required hospitalisation.

The late Peter Donovan confided in me that Father Leo had expressed to Colin that the Buckfast hierarchy were not best pleased with the attention that was being showered on Brother Adam now that he was no longer the head of the bee yard at the Abbey. This and the death of Brother Adam in September 1996 greatly affected Colin in that he became somewhat diffident. By now Colin was no longer driving, he had given up his car, and rarely travelled far, other than to Walsingham Show to judge the small honey show or to be brought down to the Great Yorkshire Show by beekeeping colleague Trevor Green; this he did up until 2011.
It was not long after that his health let him down, which more or less kept him house bound. Fortunately he had developed a friendship with David Pearce of Tynemouth; David became a constant companion by visiting him two or three times a week to ensure that he was well provisioned. It is pleasing to note that his endearing personality was not forgotten, he was visited and telephoned by many beekeeping pals: he loved discussing beekeeping, like a good many of a great age, his life revolved around his memories.

Colin was renowned for his impish sense of humour; my abiding memory of him was in 1983, when I was asked to speak and judge the Hexham Honey Show. With my beekeeping pal, Peter Hardy, we arrived for tea at Colin’s farmhouse, renowned for his cooked ham and jacket potatoes. Before setting off into the cold night air to speak at the annual evening lecture, Colin thrust into my hand a slide telling me to show it as part of my lecture, by seeing if anyone knew who the man was handling a bottle of mead, with the parting comment that “you bet them a £ that no-one would know it was Tom Sexton”. The annual lecture was held following the staging of the honey show exhibits on the Friday evening. We were received by Bill Flatman and “put in our places of what we could and could not do” by the indefatigable Amy Nicholson. The lecture proceeded nicely until the slide came up on the very large screen, when I pronounced that I would bet anyone a £ that they could not guess who the person was holding the bottle of mead.  To my astonishment, Amy Nicholson announced ecstatically that it was her late husband Edwin, despite my polite protestations that it was Tom Sexton.  I had to contend with her final words before moving on “well I slept with him every night of our married life, so I ought to know”…you can imagine the atmosphere.  I could see Peter Hardy looking at me in bewilderment, thinking “Now get out of that then”.  Upon our return to Colin’s home, somewhat deflated over my faux pass,  we were greeted immediately by Colin who was beside himself with laughter, proudly producing a photograph of Edwin Nicholson, who was without doubt Tom Sexton's double. The following day it was all taken in good heart once Colin produced the photograph of Mr Nicholson.

There is little more one can say in this homily of the passing of this great sage of beekeeping, other than he was a great person to know, it was most fitting that he was honoured in the 2008 New Year’s Honours List for services to beekeeping. I think we should also make a mention of thank you to all those people who looked after Colin in his final years, whether by providing food, contacting or visiting him. It was a very generous effort by all who made time in their day for him. I will miss, as I know many more will.

Michael Badger MBE

Colin Weightman MBE (1929-2014) Honorary President Hexham Beekeepers

And though the end of a brief life awaits the bees themselves
(since it never extends beyond the seventh summer)

the species remains immortal, and the fortune of the hive
is good for many years, and grandfathers’ grandfathers are counted.
Virgil

 

The passing of Colin Weightman marks the end of an era in beekeeping but it is also an opportunity to begin an assessment of the contribution that he made to Northumberland and British Beekeeping. Since his death there have been obituaries by two people who knew Colin very well, Michael Badger and David Pearce which appeared in Beecraft and BBKA news respectively.

I first got to know Colin sometime after I joined Hexham Beekeepers in 1976. I was aware of Colin at the initial Hexham Honey show I attended. By then Colin was already a nationally known honey judge and it was with some trepidation that I first entered some honey. I did win a prize but there were only two entries in the class! However two names that frequently cropped up as winners of the Colin Weightman perpetual cup were John Theobalds and later, Robert Furniss.

Colin was always generous with his time and knowledge and was a most generous host. He had frequent meetings at his apiary where you might meet beekeeping luminaries from around the world. One who stays in the memory was Brother Adam who was a frequent visitor to Low Shilford.

Colin was also generous with his bees and there were many Northumberland beekeepers who helped by Colin to restock when their bees died. Perhaps the most evocative memory is that of the late Basil Waller, who as he grew older gave up his bees and then changed his mind. This was no problem for Colin who ensured that Basil had more bees and the hives to house them.

Colin was also a prolific writer using his observations of beekeeping for more than sixty years. His ‘Tales of Border Beekeeper published by Ian Copinger with a selection of articles written for the The British Bee Journal between 1960-1990 with many references going back to the 1940’s. This includes a picture of hives at Low Shilford following the great winter storm of 1947. It is hoped that the many notes that Colin kept for so many years will be preserved for future generations of beekeepers.

Philp Latham

Colin Weightman - A Life In Bee Keeping
 
Colin Weightman’s death on 21st October 2014 at the age of 85 years brings to an end another beekeeping era. Many people will be thankful to have spent time talking about beekeeping and listening to his many stories about beekeepers of old and of the farming and landowning families of Northumberland and Co. Durham. They will also remember a distinctive, underlying sweet aroma of honey mingled with wood smoke in his cottage which was full to the brim with centuries of beekeeping history.

Colin was born into a farming family within the Tyne valley, Northumberland, and his beekeeping began at the tender age of 10 through meeting with his mentor Jack Tweddell, the post master at Riding Mill, Northumberland. Jack arranged for Colin to purchase his first stock of bees for 30 shillings thus starting his home apiary at Low Shilford, Stocksfield. Colin always said “this was the best money I ever spent”. At his peak, Colin was managing 120 colonies across Tynedale and right to the very end he was never without his bees.

It was not long before Colin became a leading figure in the British beekeeping world. He was much sought after as a lecturer throughout the UK on beekeeping matters and in giving long talks about major figures in beekeeping since the war. He built close friendships with Brother Adam, William Herrod-Hempsall, Cecil Tonsley, Willie Smith, Selby & Willie Robson, Hodgson Gray, Alf Dodd, Frank Cessford, Bob Robson Eva Crane and many other luminaries of British beekeeping. His contacts reached back to the early days of the 20th Century.Surprisingly, only some of these many names are indexed in his book “Border Bees” which was first published in 1961 and recently reprinted.

Colin achieved national recognition with his books and his many years of interesting articles for the British Bee Journal. These include a mention of multiple supersedure, resulting in an old queen and three daughters laying harmoniously in the same colony, although by the following May only one youngster was left (BBJ, 1981). He knew, and had records of, the dates of all the good honey flows over a period of fifty years as well as all the bad winters, right back to the First World War. Colin recorded in 1949 the heaviest flow of heather honey; that year Colin obtained a crop of 1 ton of heather honey from an apiary of 20 colonies in Hexhamshire. Thanks to Colin’s easy to read prolific writing, his special knowledge has become available to all enquiring minds. He has left behind a vast archive of recorded beekeeping history which should be preserved.

In 1948, Colin visited Brother Adam at Buckfastleigh Abbey. This event was to begin a friendship that was to continue until the death of Brother Adam in 1996. Colin and Brother Adam made many visits to each other’s homes and also undertook a number of overseas tours to find the best strains of bees. These excursions visited many places in Europe, the Near East, and North Africa
.
Colin was well known for his great kindness and generosity and as a beekeeper of legendary skill and knowledge, but he never let that stand in the way of helping others, especially those less experienced than himself.   He wanted people to understand and love beekeeping as an art. Some people can keep their knowledge to themselves; this was never so with Colin. He never failed to reach out to help all beekeeping associations (BKAs) in the area.   One of the ways he did this was to invite associations and, for that matter, individual beekeepers from all over the world to his home apiary.   To see him working his hives was a wonder and his hospitality went beyond the boundaries of necessity by providing the most magnificent teas to all the company.

It will come as no surprise to note that in recognition of his dedication to bees and beekeeping, Colin was an honorary member of the BBKA and both Northumberland BKAs for many years. He continued as president of Hexham BKA up to his death. In 2008 his lifelong achievements were honoured when he was presented with the MBE for his services to beekeeping by the Lord-Lieutenant of Northumberland.

There is little more one can say in this homily of the passing of this great sage of beekeeping, other than he was a splendid person to know and it was most fitting that he was honoured in the 2008 New Year’s Honours List for services to beekeeping. Colin was a great character, an extremely knowledgeable beekeeper, a countryman and friend to all who shared his enthusiasm towards beekeeping. Colin, you will be dearly missed.
 
David Pearce



 

Colin Weightman – a few memories

I have been asked to write down a few of my memories of Colin; this I do now just as they occur to me. Colin was a larger than life man, quite unpredictable at times, and these somewhat random reminiscences seem to suit him!

My first meeting with Colin was when he invited my late husband, John, to his house one evening with a couple of other beekeepers. Colin lived with his mother who provided the hospitality for the evening with generous slices of delicious fruitcake! There was always fruitcake! I remember the photo of the prize bull above the mantelpiece, probably one from his own farm at Shilford.

A question was asked of Colin, the answer to which became a family joke. He was asked how much heather honey he had got that summer, and his reply was, ‘Well, some like it granulated, and some like it clear.” So whenever John wanted to evade a question that was his answer! And you knew you weren’t going to get an answer just as nobody ever knew how much honey Colin got from his bees!

Colin was a deeply spiritual man, and often went on retreat to nearby Minsteracres. We were very happy when he agreed to be Godfather to our son, Timothy.

He was very supportive of new young beekeepers like my husband, and made a point of introducing them to the Great and the Good in beekeeping circles. It was very touching, and I know that John really appreciated the encouragement which Colin gave him to experiment with new ideas and methods.

He loved to talk about the ‘old days’ and the great ‘giants’ of beekeeping like Herod Hempsall. But he was no respecter of persons – he had equal regard for the lowliest to the highest – as long as they loved their bees as much as he did. The names, Robson and Cessford come to mind.

Colin was a large man, and his large hands hovered gently over the bees. A symbiotic relationship, one might say. I do not think he ever wore gloves and only the smallest of veils. He always greeted you with an outstretched hand and a huge welcoming smile.

On many occasions, he brought Brother Adam up to Tynedale from Buckfast Abbey in Devon, so we were all so lucky to be able to meet this great beekeeper. I specially prize a photo of Colin, Brother Adam, and John at the Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990 when Hexham beekeepers won many prizes especially a beautiful display board. This won first prize in its category.

Is it really the case that there are no longer great characters like Colin about? Not many, I think, and he will not be forgotten – not by me at any rate.

Rosemary Theobalds

 

Colin and Educating Bee Keepers Of The Future

When I taught in Haydon Bridge Technical School in the '60s, with its emphasis in the curriculum on agriculture and rural studies, I was approached by pupils who were keen to learn about beekeeping.  I confessed complete ignorance about the subject, including the design of hives.  The county had a bee officer, John Ashton, in post at Kirkley Hall and he visited the school to advise on the fascinating subject of the bee space and the relative merits of different designs of hive.
         
A bee club was formed in the school and we began work on four national hives and the preparation of an apiary in the orchard.  Above all John introduced us to Colin Weightman, who invited us to visit his apiary on his farm at Stocksfield; an occasion which I recall with great pleasure.  He had the farmer's knowledge of the natural world, the cycle of the seasons and the relationship of the bees to the flowers, trees and crops growing in the Tyne valley. At the time of our visit he had colonies gathering nectar from field beans and his preparation of colonies for the heather moors appealed to the imagination of the children.  A number of those pupils were inspired by his enthusiasm and became very capable members of the bee club, adopting beekeeping as a life long hobby.
             
His explanation of the careful placing of the hives in the apiary and the need for us to include the making of small nuc boxes was particularly instructive for us at our stage of planning at school.  Perhaps the lasting memory of Colin was the skill he demonstrated in handling bees; he alleviated any fear that might have deterred the children as he calmly and gently opened his hives to arouse their fascination.  The visit concluded in the farm house as Colin answered questions while his mother presided over tea and cakes.
             
Through his friendship with Brother Adam, we were able to obtain a Buckfast Abbey queen, a large golden beauty, very easy to identify in the hive.  Unfortunately, while Colin was able to maintain the strain, we lost it within a couple of years, although no doubt its genes combined with those of our local bees.  We did not get embroiled in any controversy about bee breeding, but in later years when he visited my own apiary in his capacity as a bee inspector, his visits were always an education in bee diseases.
             
I learned a great deal from him about the value of simply observing bees before and during inspections - prompting me to note (to use his phrase) "sticky out wings " as a clue to disease, or to use our sense of smell to identify American Foul Brood .
               
When a beekeeper came from Norfolk and required a site for a pair of hives, I suggested that she could occupy space in my apiary.  Fortunately Colin came immediately to inspect the newcomer and found American Foul Brood within seconds of opening her first colony. Although an interesting lesson in bee diseases it meant that I did not get to the heather that year.  It was typical of Colin, however, that he could not destroy the infected colony without replacing it with a colony from his own apiary.
                 
Colin practised beekeeping as a craft and he had all the qualities of a craftsman; a love of his materials and the skills to work them; an infinite capacity to take pains; a respect for those who practised the craft before him and an eagerness to preserve the craft by helping others.
Peter Jones
             

Colin Weightman 1929-2014

 
Colin Weightman MBE who died unexpectedly at home on October 21st aged 85 years was a highly regarded beekeeper throughout the UK and a well respected Northumberland farmer and countryman. Born at Grange farm, Ryhope in 1927 Colin moved with his parents Harry and Winifred to Shilford near Stocksfield on the south side of the mid Tyne valley and took over the tenancy of Low Shilford farm on the Allendale Estate on the death of his father in 1963. He retired from farming when the steading was developed for residential use and moved to a stone built climbing rose clad cottage adjacent to the former farm house.

The front door opened immediately into an idyllic garden and orchard and it was here that Colin kept the majority of his apiary. From his living room window he could see the well stocked hives. He spent most of his time outdoors close to the colonies observing flights, behaviour, resistance to disease and ability to forage far and wide in varying weather conditions. Together with the internationally renowned master keeper Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey they sought bees in Greece and elsewhere that when combined with British bees produced productive strains that are easy to handle. Pioneering techniques of breeding were used to achieve this advance in the genetic qualities of bees.

It was for these and other services to the bee industry over many years that Colin was awarded the MBE in The Queen’s Honours list of 2008. A memorable cartoon on the front page of local press portrayed Her Majesty presenting the honours to a fully veiled beekeeper with bees buzzing over his head. The caption read “Oh bee ye?”

Colin was widely known among beekeepers for his forthright and charming personality and through his writing. The regular feature ‘Combings’ was presented under the authorship of ‘Colin’ in the British Beekeepers Journal. His articles were packed with advice to fellow apiarists on bee handling, disease prevention, reminiscences of personalities in the bee world, and his immense knowledge of changing seasons both favourable and unfavourable for flower and heather honey gathering.

It was an always a joy to visit Colin at Shilford not only for his warm welcome, but also to see the hives laden with honey. He would open hives without gloves, nor veil nor smoker to reveal supers laden with golden honey and his active but quiet bees at work. He had many ‘cousins’ of first second and third generations removed. There was always a jolly greeting in his distinctive Northumberland accent. To the farming men folk there was a bone crushing handshake, a legacy of his tough pre war boyhood years and wartime dairy farming when hand milking of diary cows by light hurricane lamps on dark winters’ mornings was the norm.

Colin compiled the history of his branch of the Weightman family tracing the line back to John Wightman who moved from Leicestershire in the early 1700’s to serve with The Duke of Northumberland’s Militia. Following the relative peace and cessation of Border reiving after 1745 the family began farming at Overthwarts near Alnwick only to lose the tenancy due to successive crop failures caused by climate change of dark wet summers induced by Icelandic volcanic eruptions in the early 1780’s. Subsequently the family moved to Ponteland and then to near Sunderland in 1801. Colin kept in touch and was visited by members of the family who emigrated to USA. It was from Ryhope south of Sunderland that Colin returned with his parents when he was 9 years old to his native roots in Northumberland.

Although he never married Colin had a wide circle of family and friends who gave support particularly in latter years and helped keep him in good health. Colin John Martell and David Pearce in particular were very supportive. His bees outlive him and will be an enduring legacy.

Paul Weightman

 

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